A Random Image

Jett Superior laid this on you on || September 7, 2003 || 7:03 pm

I see my boy, lanky and easy, all fluid-moving five-feet-one of him, and I marvel. It was five years ago that he started playing in the league, and next year –his twelfth– will be the final one here; he will be old enough to play ball at school after that. I can almost see the man he is becoming, but as he steps focused and sure into the line, lightly adjusting his hip pads before bending at the waist….well, still I get these heartrending flashes: The images superimposed upon the manboy are those of a second-grader who barely stretched to my hip, helmet wobbling, pads swallowing him up, looking scared as all hell. At sixty-seven pounds, he was one of the biggest boys on the team, even though you could hardly see him when he turned sideways, so they threw him to the bears: “You’re a defensive lineman.” Part of a boy becoming a man is having a momma who knows when to shut up and just sort of be stoic while cringing on the inside.

Sweet mother of God, the boys on the other teams weighed in at one, one-ten and my boy had to tilt his head back to look them full in the chin. They grow ‘em big here in Bammy, and my already-whittled nails saw great action from my teeth that first season.

One game out of the many still stretches out, unfolding full and completely detailed in my mind’s eye. The other team was the hugest of the huge and our wee boys looked like lawn gnomes sent to take on a herd of Goliaths. Some of our best plays came out of our boys actually running through the other team’s collection of beefy legs. That day was pure comic genius and we had somehow secured a marginal lead when the rain began to fall. No lightning snaking across the sky means that the game can continue and the field quickly became a slippery, frustrating mess. One big boy, number fifty-five, was incredibly fast for his size and dogged our sprightly quarterback incessantly. The coach gave the order to my son, “‘At one rightere’s yours, Sammo.” and though Sam’s eyes got big, he nodded, glancing back to me.

I formed a circle of my index finger and thumb, it’s okay, Samuel, it’s ohhhh-kay and mouthed the words ‘hit. and. stick’, the mantra he’d heard so many times in backyard drills and practices. He knew the rest: ‘Until he falls, until he falls, untilllllllheeeeefaaaaallllls.’ ‘STICK’ I mouthed forcefully for emphasis before nodding him toward the field. The boy went out, lined himself up solidly in front of ole double-five and waited on the play to begin.

He came off the line quickly, hitting FiftyFive in his soft middle, encircling (well, sort of) the boy with his arms and promptly began to slide down the big child’s wet polyester jersey. FiftyFive looked confused, then as Sam slid to knee length and was able to pull a tighter hold FiftyFive began to try and free himself from my boy’s clutches. It was muddy and slippery as all hell and here was coach yelling, “HANG ON, SAM.” and here was me screaming “DIG, DIG, DIIIIIIG, SON!” and Sam continued his downward slide, legs pumping furiously, hoping to fell the tree, helmeted noggin firmly planted between FiftyFive’s ankles, who was trying desperately to shake himself of this small nuisance and growing more frustrated and pissed off by the second because he could not seem to do so. He couldn’t even lift his feet, couldn’t turn around far enough to even overbalance himself smartly and fall so that he could slide away from this tenacious boy’s clutches and then find his feet again.

And there was this delicious little touchdown –made by the elven quarterback– while my son provided comic and defensive relief for all of Sand Mountain PeeWeedom. We won that game, and all my son could say about his heroics afterwards were that they were mere acts of cowardice and self-preservation: “If I let him go before that whistle blew, momma, he was gonna kill me. He kept telling me so!” and I kissed his sweet seven-year-old face over and over, laughing. I could do that back then, because seven-year-olds don’t wipe the kisses away and they aren’t embarrasssed to have the world know that their mommas love them.

Oh, he’ll still take a kiss from me now, and he doesn’t really wipe it away, but it has to be matter-of-fact and sometimes I see the hand hover as if he were pondering removing all traces of the kiss before he recalls that most times (save for the cases involving dark-hued lipstick) they are, after all, invisible.

These boys….when they were tiny, they were all catcalls and pratfalls and caterwaul and innocent-goofy. They bumbled and fumbled and galloped up and down the field. Sometimes we parents would roll our eyes and groan at their antics: “Hey, Stacy, you see what your boy just did??” and sometimes we’d whoop and holler at great feats of athleticism that defied convention: “Tim, my man, your boy’s shapin’ up to be quite the little ball player.” We were crazily naive, not truly realizing that when the boys assembled the following year they would be two full inches taller and just the tiniest bit broader through the shoulders. They rolled out onto the field tumbling over one another and laughing like a barrel full of hyenas.

And then there is now: There is the same field, the same group of boys, only today they are deeper-voiced, keen on competition, hard-faced and ready when their cleats meet the grass at the fifty-yard line. They have somehow grown into their pads, somehow grown serious about this game, somehow doubled in height and –sometimes– in weight. They tape their laces of their own accord, they wear gloves and neckrolls and magically look like ballplayers. They keep track of the hits and the misses, the hard-earned knicks in their helmets, the bruises and the mishaps.

And we parents, we schlep the equipment, adhering to the forced-marched schedule of practices and games for twelve weeks in the fall, we applaud and cheer them on, we grin like silly fools when our children have a moment of excellence, we advise on the art of good sportsmanship, we hope they are learning and do our best to see that they have a good time while doing so.

But in those moments where flashes of memory like the one recounted above shock us with the such-a-short-time long distance sense that it is all falling away (even as it should) so, so very rapidly, we grieve for those times that they were the smallest boys in the league, giggling from beneath too-big helmets and swallowed from waist up by pads so that you could hardly tell one from the next save for the numbers on their jerseys. It is hardly given a thought that we are aging, but the notion that they are sometimes captures our attentions and oh my, how very grinding and bittersweet that is on a thirtysomething’s heart.

10 worked it out »

  1. cal 9.7.2003

    That was beautiful.

  2. red clay 9.7.2003

    oh, honey.

  3. brynne 9.7.2003

    just wanted to tell you– I love how you write. good story, miz jett.

  4. stacie 9.7.2003

    Wow. I am amazed by the way you flow your words together. Ever thought of writing a book? I think most people would read what ever you wrote, even if you wrote about how a snail mates, simply because of the volatlity.

    Tremendus work.

  5. stacie 9.7.2003

    I think I used the word volatility wrong. either way, I know I didnt spell it right the first time. Oh well. Your the writer, not me!

  6. Kandy 9.8.2003

    What a beautifully written post. I was completely enthralled.

  7. Gary 9.8.2003

    So goes the blessing/curse of child rearing. You have let them face their Goliaths eventually. Whether it is in the form of a bully, a teacher, alcohol or sex. We give them a set of tools to use and then we must stand on the sidelines and let them fight the battle. If we fail at this we have truely failed to raise the child. To succeed they must never fear failure.

  8. jjjettth

    are you sure it’s not a Very Silly Sport?

    I mean, we have rugby here which is Fairly Silly, but at least they can’t tackle you unless you have the ball

  9. I just had a satisfied sigh Jett. Well written indeed.

  10. Tina 9.10.2003

    It’s funny when you’re little all you want to do is grow up and when you finally do, you really just wish you could be that little again…


    I really enjoyed this one! :D


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